The Enforcement Process for
Licensed Health Professionals
The Virginia Department of Health Professions (DHP) works to ensure the safe and competent delivery of health care to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. DHP's mission is to ensure safe and competent patient care by licensing health professionals, enforcing standards of practice, and providing information to health care practitioners and the public. The Department performs the following functions:
- issues licenses, registrations, certifications and permits to applicants that meet qualifications established by law;
- investigates complaints of possible violations of law and regulation;
- inspects facilities for compliance with laws and regulation;
- conducts studies and makes recommendations regarding the regulation of health care professionals and provides this information to the public.
There are 13 health regulatory boards within the Department of Health Professions. There are over 62 professions and over 6,800 facilities regulated by these boards.
The Boards are:
- Audiology & Speech-Language Pathology
- Funeral Directors & Embalmers
- Long Term Care Administrators
- Nursing (includes the Nurse Aide Registry & Medication Aide Registry)
- Physical Therapy
- Social Work
- Veterinary Medicine
DHP’s Enforcement Division receives and investigates thousands of complaints each year across a wide range of healthcare professions. For all cases, a written acknowledgment of receipt will be sent to the source of the complaint if a mailing address is provided.
Anyone can file a complaint and may choose to do so anonymously, although anonymity cannot be guaranteed. Virginia law dictates that details of a complaint must be shared with the licensee against whom the complaint has been filed.
Healthcare practitioners and some healthcare entities are required to submit complaints in certain circumstances. Visit the laws and regulations page to find these requirements.
Once a complaint is filed, if it is within DHP’s jurisdiction, the Enforcement Division records it in DHP’s tracking system, assesses the complaint, and investigates as appropriate. Investigators and inspectors collect essential evidence, including copies of relevant documents and interviews. Information received by DHP is confidential. Investigative staff are unable to share details, unless doing so is necessary to further the investigation. Cases are generally investigated within three months, although timeframes can vary. After investigation, cases are forwarded to boards for consideration of the evidence.
Investigators also work with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies on criminal cases involving licensees of DHP or individuals who practice without a license.
DHP is a health oversight agency as defined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). DHP does not have the legal authority to order reimbursement or to award financial damages. It does not have the authority to investigate complaints about business practices over which it has no jurisdiction.
After an investigation is conducted, evidence is summarized in an investigative report. This confidential report is then sent to the appropriate health regulatory board. It is DHP’s goal for boards to reach a final determination and close patient care cases within 250 business days from the date the agency received the complaint. However, some cases may take longer.
The appropriate regulatory board reviews the investigative report for evidence that a law or regulation has been violated. There are a range of actions that a board may take if a violation is found. The Administrative Proceedings Division (APD), in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, ensures that the adjudication process is fair and that licensees are informed of charges. APD may also present facts and evidence at informal conferences and formal hearings.
Close a Case
If a board finds insufficient evidence of a violation, the case may be closed.
This agreement is used by a board in lieu of public discipline, but only in cases involving minor misconduct, where there is little or no injury to a patient or the public and little likelihood of repetition by the practitioner.
A consent order is an agreement between a board and a licensee to settle a case without having to conduct an informal conference or a formal hearing. A consent order contains findings of fact, conclusions of law, sanctions and a waiver of rights to further proceedings. It is part of the public record.
After an informal fact finding conference and/or a formal hearing (both of which are open to the public), health regulatory boards are
Reprimand - A Board may choose to reprimand if it is determined that a practitioner committed a violation. This becomes part of the public record.
Monetary Penalty - All monetary penalties go to the State Literary Fund.
Impose Terms & Conditions - A variety of corrective actions may be imposed. For example, a board may require a practitioner to take supplementary education in specific areas, or place the license on probation with specific terms and/or conditions. If physical or mental disability or chemical dependency is found, a board may order participation in the Health Practitioner’s Monitoring Program.
Limit Practice Privileges - Certain privileges specific to a licensee’s practice may be limited or revoked.
Suspension or Revocation - If a violation is determined to be severe enough, a license may be suspended or revoked.
Dismiss - A case may be dismissed at an informal fact finding conference or a formal administrative hearing if a licensee is exonerated, or if insufficient evidence of a violation is presented.
After reviewing the evidence and making a final decision, boards will communicate that final decision to the source of the complaint and the licensee. Discipline imposed after an informal conference may be appealed to the board, while licensees or facilities disciplined subsequent to a formal hearing may appeal directly to state circuit courts. The Office of the Attorney General represents the relevant board in any such appeal.
Virginia Department of Health Professions
9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 300
Henrico, VA 23233-1463
Telephone: (804) 367-4400
To print this information download DHP's Enforcement Brochure.